On the Road: Fall Trip to the Berkshires

As I mentioned in Allie’s most recent update, we took a little road trip earlier this month to the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts to check on the leaves and partake in some fall fun.

(Yes, I know—#basic. But, I don’t care. I <3 this time of year, and I’m going to make sure that A and B do too).

We stayed in Pittsfield, which was about a five hour drive from Philly, and centrally located to all the places we wanted to visit. The suite-style property was ideal for traveling with A and B because it had extra space for them to play and a kitchen that was stocked with all the basics, so that we could make breakfast and dinner.

Enjoying hotel life

On our first full day in the area, we drove up to Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts. Had it not been so cloudy and windy, we would have had a better view from nearly 3,500 feet up. But, B enjoyed picking dandelions and tolerated my requests for photos, so it wasn’t a wasted venture.

Stopping at a scenic point on the way up

Obsessed with dandelions

It was windy up there!

On a clear day, you can see up to 90 miles away

We made a pit stop to visit some alpacas.

After a quick stop for lunch at Blueberry Hill Market and Cafe (located in New Lebanon, NY, which is basically just over the border from MA) we headed to the Harvest Festival at the Berkshire Botanical Gardens. All of the dreams that the girls never knew they had came true, when they got to jump into big piles of hay, and B had her face painted for the first time.

My little puppy

The next day was pretty rainy, but we ventured into downtown Pittsfield for brunch at Otto’s Breakfast and Deli. The entire town seemed deserted, but it turns out that’s because everyone had the same idea for brunch and was waiting for a table at Otto’s. A and B kept everyone entertained while we waited, and the omelettes were excellent.


Walking to brunch in the drizzle

After that, we did some more leaf peeping, and walked around Lenox, a cute little town filled with shops, art galleries, and delicious ice cream.

I wish the weather had felt more fall-like, but it was unseasonably warm and rained off and on during the weekend. But, we made the most of it and had a great time anyway—we are already talking about going back next year!

School Days

1st_prek-4

Today marks the beginning of a new phase of our lives—The School Days!

1st_prek-1

Tracy is totally smiling here. She’s proud of B, too!

Ever since I registered B for Pre-K in the spring, I have been both looking forward to and dreading this day. Out of all of the milestones we have celebrated so far, this one is most firmly in the most “growing up” category.  This is the start of a part of B’s life that will be separate from the one she shares with us. It’s the first time that someone other than immediate family will watch over her; and, she’ll be making new friends and doing new things that we won’t get to witness firsthand. And, while I was excited for her to indulge her love of learning and build her social skills, I was anxious about her reaction to the new people, new situations and changes in routine that this day would bring (i.e. B’s least favorite things). When we talked about school in the abstract, B seemed excited, but I don’t think she fully grasped the notion that she would be facing this situation without us standing right next to her.

1st_prek-5

So, it was with all of these mixed emotions that we picked out a first day of school outfit, packed up her backpack and headed out the door on our first ever, first day of school.

1st_prek-6

Last night, she said that Arthur was coming to with her, but he was cast aside for Mickey this morning.

And, it all went much better than I anticipated.

1st_prek-7

B was excited to see that her school was adjacent to one of her favorite playgrounds. She went into the building, pretty much willingly, and stood in the back of the room for awhile, surveying the scene. She made the teachers laugh when she said “No!” in answer to every single question that she was asked. Finally, she made her way over to the classroom’s play kitchen and happily played for awhile on her own.

1st_prek-11

We watched the other kids settle in, and I was relieved when I saw how expertly the teacher was able to calm down the criers. Eventually, Chester and I were the last two parents in the room, and predictably, B broke down when we headed for the door. Tears welled in my eyes as I heard the door click shut behind us, while B yelled “No! No! No!” just beyond it. Thank God for the privacy of our car and waterproof mascara.

I kept myself distracted with work for the next couple of hours, mentally preparing to return to find B still in meltdown mode, or perhaps asleep in the corner, after crying herself into exhaustion.

But, when we returned a couple of hours later, B was smiling. Her teacher said she calmed down pretty soon after we left. She enjoyed the playground, shared her Goldfish with the teacher, made her first school art project and played with another little girl. When I picked her up, she got a little teary and said “Mommy, you came back!” But overall, she seemed happy.

1st_prek-13

We are just at the beginning, and I know there is still an adjustment period ahead. But, for now, I am relieved, and just so darn. proud.

On the Road: Hudson River Valley Fall Getaway

Although we love our little travel buddy, Chester and I decided that we were long overdue for an adults only vacation. After considering a few options within driving distance of Philly, we decided to head up to the Hudson River Valley for a long weekend. Having visited the area a few years ago, we knew that it would be an ideal setting for a relaxing fall getaway.

This time, we stayed at the adorable Buttermilk Falls Inn, located in Milton. If you were so inclined, you wouldn’t even have to venture off the property to get a taste of what the area has to offer. The 75-acre estate includes a spa, a farm-to-table-restaurant, walking trails and scenic views of the Hudson River.

IMG_0977

An assortment of some of the animals we met at the inn.  City people don’t know what to do around farm animals. Also, I need a llama for Christmas.

If you want to do some sightseeing, Milton is just about 20 minutes away from Hyde Park, which has a few different points of interest.

Our first stop was the Culinary Insitute of America. Current students lead public tours a few times a week, and it was pretty cool to get a glimpse into the kitchens and classrooms, where future chefs and bakers were hard at work. After the tour, we had lunch at The Bocuse, one of the student-run restaurants on-campus.

IMG_0952

From top left: Black truffle soup, apple butternut soup, seared scallops with truffle, potato and cauliflower, veal with braised onions, kale and foie gras butter and an assortment of desserts. The white coffee ice cream was made table side with liquid nitrogen!

On the whole, the food and service were above average, with the exception of Chester’s veal entree, which was completely over-salted. He sent it back to the kitchen, but the second dish did not improve much. The students are all still learning though, so I suppose some hiccups are to be expected!

After lunch, we took a tour of Springwood. Franklin D. Roosevelt was born and is buried there, and it was the place that he often said truly felt like home.

4

6

Burial place of FDR, Eleanor and two of their dogs

Old homes/estates are always among my favorite sites to see when we travel; this site is remarkable not only for the material objects it contains, but also for the fact that some of the decisions that impacted the course of history were made here. The grounds also are home to FDR’s library and archives. Built under his direction, it was the first presidential library and also housed his private study where he conducted several of his fireside chats. Today, it contains more than 50 million items related to FDR and his wife Eleanor.

Continuing with the historic home theme, the next day, we visited the Vanderbilt house, one of the oldest Hudson River estates and one of the best examples of a Gilded Age mansion.The ostentatious furnishings were a definite contrast to the more rustic and reserved elements of FDR’s home.

7

I wish that our visit had coincided with the peak of the fall foliage season, because I bet that makes the views of the Hudson even more spectacular.

9

We ended our trip with dinner at Henry’s at the Farm, the restaurant at Buttermilk Falls. My recommendation would absolutely be the lobster risotto and Chester would tell you to get the 48 oz Tomahawk steak. It looked exactly like the side of meat that they put into Fred’s car at the drive-through movie theater during the Flintstone’s theme song. He ate the entire thing. I feel like that deserves a plaque on the wall or some other kind of tribute!

IMG_0983

Although I did feel a bit guilty to leave B, it was so nice to have some time to reconnect with Chester. Life has been so busy lately, and it’s hard to find time even for a few little moments together in the midst of it all. I didn’t realize how much I missed him! We slept in (until 8:30!), had adult conversations (only about 80% of which revolved around our current and future child), enjoyed several hot meals/cups of coffee without having to worry about toddler meltdowns and even went to an actual theater to see a movie (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2). 

It was just like to good old days and I’m glad that we had this opportunity to take a breather, before things get even crazier with the arrival of Baby #2.

IMG_0980

(I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to the world’s best Ni-Ni/mommy and the world’s best Ti-Ti/aunt for helping to make the weekend possible by letting B and Tracy, respectively, crash at their houses for a few days. You guys rock!)

 

 

 

Giving Thanks.

BRIDGET-1-YEAR-016

Moments like this are why I’m the luckiest girl in the world.

I try to be thankful, every day, for all of the good things that I have in my life. But, when there is so much to do and so little time to do it and the evening news only reports the bad things that happen, it’s easier to become frustrated and pessimistic.

Fortunately, Thanksgiving (and the prospect of spending time with the people that I love most amidst copious amounts of food), has arrived to snap me out of it.

In the spirit of today’s holiday, here is a short list of things that I am grateful for:

My husband. He tolerates all my quirks and moods and makes me feel like the most beautiful girl in the world even when I haven’t washed my hair in three days.

My sweet baby girl. She’s the first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I think about at night. She is making me a better person every single day and just seeing her smile makes my life.

My mom, who is always there. My aunt, who will also do just about anything for us, including acting as our own personal post office so our packages don’t get stolen from our front step. My brother, who is the number one fan of this blog (even though he would never admit it) and who finally joined Facebook this year so that I can enjoy his sense of humor on a daily basis.

The world’s best dog. Tracy, our poor first daughter is often overlooked in favor of her baby sister and I feel incredibly guilty and undeserving of the love (and daily protection from the mailman) that she continues to give us.

Friends. Even though we don’t get to see each other as often as we would like, I know that I can pick up the phone and we’ll pick up right where we left off. A special shout-out goes to my BFF of 20 (!) years, Bridget. Sure, I could have come up with Chicago Hope: The Board Game myself, but it would not have been nearly as fun (plus, I’m pretty sure she came up with the idea for the popsicle stick character/game pieces, which will really the be major selling point for the game when we finally bring it to Milton Bradley).

My job. I have always loved my field, but after a couple of years of feeling kind of lost on my career path, I am finally in a position that is a really good fit for me. And, without work I never would have connected with colleagues who have turned into good friends.

Technology. Specifically, smartphones. Right now, I’m stuck with an ancient Blackberry while I wait for a new phone. I have been without instant access to my e-mail, calendar, and Instagram for a few weeks and it’s driving me bananas (#firstworldproblems). Also, Google. It knows everything. I rely on it at least a hundred times a day for the answers to the most obscure questions and the correct spelling of words that I mess up so badly that even Spell Check doesn’t recognize them (such as convenient and necessary. And, yes, I just Googled those).

Philly. While I was walking though Center City the other day I was reminded of how much I love living here, with access to awesome museums, restaurants and shopping.

Coffee. Without it, I would be even crankier than I usually am and would probably be asleep at my desk by 9 a.m. Relatedly: under eye concealer.

Cake. Because there is nothing better with coffee.

Yoga pants and their universally flattering nature. Although I would be even more grateful if it were acceptable to wear them to work.

Good books. Crap television (i.e. Teen Mom, reality shows on TLC, etc.).

A hot shower, pajamas and a comfy bed. There’s nothing better at the end of the day.

Every single day of the week, that I get to wake up and take on new challenges. Be a mother. Do creative things. Except when those days are Tuesdays. I will never be thankful for Tuesdays.

Yep. I guess I’m pretty darn lucky. I hope you can say the same. Now, go get your food coma on.

 

Pumpkinland!

49

She should be in a Gymboree catalog, right?!

Even though she was around this time last year, B wasn’t really “with it” enough to do any fun fall activities. As she gets older, I am excited to start some family traditions with her. The first thing on our list was a trip to Pumpkinland at Linvilla Orchards. Fortunately, last weekend provided the perfect weather for our excursion. Our first order of business was a visit to the farm market for some treats. 7

We skipped picking our own this year, but did bring home some delicious honey crisps from the market

16

Enjoying apple cider–in drink and doughnut form!

We checked out the barnyard and then B pretended to be a few of the animals. 17e When B sees one or two pumpkins on doorsteps or in windows around South Philly, she gets pretty excited. So, her eyes nearly popped out of her head when she saw thousands of them, in all colors and sizes, in Linvilla’s pumpkin yard. We took a ridiculous  number of pictures of her sitting in piles of pumpkins, but here are a few of my favorites. Her expressions are just so darn cute! 20 40 53a 35 I thought she would be more excited about the hayride, but she looked pretty bored the entire time. I think the combination of the warm sunshine, tractor exhaust and sugar coma nearly lulled her to sleep. Or, maybe it was just a little too country for our city girl. 56 If you plan to go to Linvilla, be warned it is INSANE on the weekends. So, pack your patience or maybe try to get there on a weekday when things are slower. Either way, there are tons of activities, including pick-your-own apples, a corn maze, playground and occasional live music to keep kids of all ages entertained for the better part of the day. We had a great day and look forward to going back next year!